Council discusses reprisals against those that cooperate with the UN
Tuesday, 15 June 2010 14:18


The general debate on agenda items 2 and 3, which took place on 8 June, mainly focussed on a number of thematic reports by the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, including on reprisals against those that have cooperated with the UN system in the field of human rights; business and human rights; the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights; human rights in the administration of justice including juvenile justice; preventable maternal mortality and morbidity; and the right of peoples to peace.


Only a small number of States (Norway, Switzerland, UK and Spain on behalf of the EU) commented on the Secretary-General’s report on ‘cooperation with the UN, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights’ (A/HRC/14/19). They expressed concern at the large number of cases of intimidation and reprisals against human rights defenders and others that have sought to cooperate with the UN. They argued that the effectiveness and credibility of the Human Rights Council (the Council) depended on its ability to interact with rights-holders and learn about situations on the ground. States called for more visibility to be given to reprisals, inside and outside the Council, to combat impunity. Switzerland and Norway also called on States to investigate alleged intimidations and reprisals and report findings to the Council and the Secretary-General.


ISHR delivered a joint statement with the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), on reprisals against persons co-operating with the UN in the field of human rights.

It called for credible investigations to be carried out in the 14 reported cases of intimidation and reprisals; for perpetrators to be brought to justice; and for reparation to be provided to victims. It also called on the Council to follow-up these investigations and look at how States, the Council and other parts of the UN system can best prevent and address instances of reprisals or intimidation.


Switzerland in particular highlighted the recent death of Floribert Chebeya, a prominent human rights defender in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, asking the authorities to conduct an impartial investigation into the case. It also stressed the need for transparency regarding reprisals, and that while not wanting to single out any particular States, it specifically referred to Kenya’s unfulfilled promise to investigate murders of two human rights defenders in 2009, and harassment of defenders in Myanmar and Venezuela. The Human Rights Commission of the Philippines also drew attention to reprisals and the role of national human rights institutions (NHRIs) in addressing such cases. It called for the Council to remind special procedures to work more closely with NHRIs, since these institutions are often well situated to implement UN recommendations.


France highlighted the importance of protecting human rights defenders working on issues of sexual orientation, as well as the need not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Spain on behalf of the EU also highlighted human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.


Other noteworthy comments were Malaysia’s general criticism of the special procedures for broadly interpreting their mandates in producing reports not requested by the Council. It also requested that OHCHR ensure that adequate resources are allocated to the special procedures without discrimination. The EU stated that the Council was not the right forum to discuss the right to peace, while Libya was the only State to speak in support of it. Cuba is presenting a resolution on that topic at this session. Some States used the debate as an opportunity to point out their efforts to protect human rights and to defend themselves against criticisms from NGOs and other States (Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria). Other issues addressed during the debate were gender equality and discrimination against women, the right to self-determination, human rights of migrants, internally displaced persons, and economic, social and cultural rights. While a large number of NGOs took part in the debate, only 20 States spoke.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 August 2010 17:03
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